An iceberg floats in Andvord Bay, Antarctica, Feb 14, 2018. (Photo: Agencies)
Record low temperatures in winter and record high temperatures in summer in many parts of the world year after year and more frequent natural disasters caused by extreme weather events provide strong evidence that global warming is not just an alarmist theory as some claim.
Yet striking a balance between the effective control of human activities that are contributing to climate change and economic growth is proving a hard nut for countries to crack.
According to the 2018 International Energy Agency report, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 gigatonnes last year, the highest level since 2013. Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10 Gt, accounting for one-third of the total increase.
The fact that most of the increase in coal use comes from coal power plants in developing Asia points to the harsh reality that greenhouse gas emissions are the cost being paid for development. That the majority of coal power plants in Asia are only 12 years old on average, decades short of the average life span of around 50 years, shows how challenging it is to cut CO2 emissions and maintain economic growth.
That the developing countries obtain help from their developed counterparts in both funds and technologies is essential to the fight against global warming.
It is high time that countries appreciated the urgency of this common challenge and how important it is for concerted efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
China and France reaffirmed their commitment to jointly address climate change, the loss of biodiversity and environmental protection in a joint statement issued on Tuesday, after visiting President Xi Jinping met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
The two countries stressed that public and private funds should be directed to invest more to fight climate change and for biodiversity protection, and there should be sustained financial support for the climate change actions of developing countries.
What is frustrating is the fact that solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace in 2018, with solar alone increasing by 31 percent, but that was still not fast enough to meet the higher electricity demand around the world that has driven up coal use.
China remains the leader in both solar- and wind-generated energy followed by Europe and the United States. But despite being on course to meet its Paris climate pledge to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, sourcing 20 percent of its energy needs from renewables and nuclear power by that date is a tougher challenge for China. However, the additional benefits of energy security and reduced pollution provide extra incentives for resolute efforts to achieve this goal.
The onus for action is not on China alone, though. The developed countries need to reduce their own emissions as well as helping developing countries reduce theirs.